The last time I recall swinging a tennis racket was during the second Clinton administration. The Kid was about 7 years old, and I took her out a few times to play. The last time I played seriously (if you can call my play “serious”) I was single, and in my early 30’s.

For a while, I played fairly often. Throughout high school, I played regularly with a couple of friends. In my early adult life, I had a couple of friends I played with on weekends and in the morning before work.

My court time was limited by my extreme self-conciousness: I did not want to play with anyone I did not know. I was just easing out from under this self-imposed limitation, expanding my play into a small group of mixed double players (mostly coworkers), when Dr. T and I got together. An avid player himself, he encouraged me to try his league. I demurred.

The last time I played tennis was not intentionally the last time I played tennis. I don’t remember it at all.

From time to time, I considered playing, but nothing ever came of it. Although I have embraced other forms of exercise, tennis never happened. At the peak of my physical condition, roughly ten years ago, I was ready to try tennis again. We had joined a small fitness club, very close to home. I was taking classes 5 days a week: yoga (Wednesdays and Saturdays), aerobics (Mondays and Wednesdays) , strength training (Tuesdays and Thursdays- at 6:00 a.m!), and a ballet/Pilates based class ( Sundays.)

The ballet did me in before I could get back to the game.  Something bad happened to my right knee in the course of leaping across the room at the end of a class. I hadn’t wanted to leap; I was there for the stretching. It wasn’t the leaping of course, but the landing that did me in. By the time I made the five minute drive home, I could barely make it upstairs to bed. I couldn’t go to work the next day. Nothing was ever the same.

I got a certain, small satisfaction in telling people that “I blew my knee out in ballet,” but my routine was forever disrupted, and I abandoned my fantasies about flying around a tennis court.

By the time I was able to resume my classes at the gym, they were being cut due to competition from a newer, fancier fitness center in town. Things changed, time passed, and tennis was forgotten.  I defaulted to the elliptical machine and  bouts of yoga.

My exercise routine since returning to Durham has consisted of walking, some home-based yoga and hand weights. (Emphasis on “some.”)

Dr. T has continued to play tennis, and encouraging me to play too. I’ve continued to think that maybe I should try again. The knee has recovered, after all. Early this year, I spotted a notice for “pre-tennis conditioning.” I decided to give it a go.

For the last three Mondays, I’ve been sprinting, lifting weights, and engaging in Mountain Climbers and Fast Feet, among other depredations. There I was, in a group of actual tennis players who all knew each other, some of them younger, and all of them more fit than I.

And it was fun, and they were friendly.

Last Monday, I stayed to play “mini tennis” (Did you know that was a Thing? I didn’t) with a fellow conditioning classmate.  This was well beyond my comfort zone. I had just met her. Her nickname on the court is “Evil Judy” due to her deadly drop shot. She’s been sidelined for months because of shoulder surgery; I’ve been sidelined for decades because of inertia. Other members of our class were playing real, live tennis on either side of us.

I surprised myself. My stroke was stronger, my feet were slower than I expected, but it felt familiar and comfortable. I want to do it again. And again. With strangers, even.